Scott Morrow, a true leader for all of us in Seattle, died last week. Scott was best known as an advocate for the homeless, but he was much more than that. He did not treat homeless men, women and children as problems, but as people with their own agency, their own will and their own attempts to gain both economic security and happiness. Many advocates for people on the edge consider them victims, and that consideration doubles down on their own sense of powerlessness. Scott created a new paradigm of respect, love and trust, enabling a democracy of decision-making among people experiencing homelessness.
Scott organized the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) and the Women’s Housing and Equality Enhancement League (WHEEL), organizations of, by and for homeless people. Through SHARE/WHEEL, homeless citizens gained a voice for themselves to deal with the city. Working and living with homeless people, Scott clung onto a bare economic minimum. He lived the life of tireless justice.
When a homeless issue came to City Hall, Scott was always there to make sure there was a forum for homeless people to voice their opinions and issues themselves. When an organizing meeting took place on issues of import, Scott always made sure that it wasn’t just him, but his homeless friends and compatriots who had a voice in these meetings.
Scott had a much grander vision of our society than any of us. He was willing to figure out how to take steps — small and large — to get there. When we launched the campaign for an income tax in Seattle, Scott was there, along with his homeless friends, developing strategy and figuring out how to win. When we celebrated our victory with a huge dinner, Scott made sure that the podium included homeless people along with the housed working class, middle class and even affluent people. He understood and embodied social solidarity.
I am going to miss my friend Scott. He challenged all of us to live up to the creed of justice; of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and of love.
— John Burbank
I was first introduced to Scott my first day working at Real Change in May 2017. I met Alan Preston — my supervisor at the time — near the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) to go together to the Trump Proof Seattle coalition meeting, headed up by the Transit Riders Union and EOI. Morrow, as well as the SHARE and Nickelsville contingent, were there. That would be the first of many coalitions and campaigns that we would work on together.
Morrow was always incredibly welcoming of me: a white, privileged, housed, young person. We fought together on many issues, and you could always count on him bringing a big pot of coffee to rallies and press conferences. It’s hard to imagine going back to City Hall meetings, whenever that may be, and not seeing Scott there. He was a constant.
Scott was a trailblazer. He pioneered self-managed encampments. He helped create the first tent city during the Goodwill Games in 1990 and continued his work for decades. His group was such a thorn in the side of Mayor Greg Nickels it eventually earned the name "Nickelsville." Morrow spoke truth to power. He never backed down from what was morally right. He didn’t waver on his principles. He was kind. He was someone I looked up to. I will miss him greatly, and I hope to honor him in the advocacy work we continue to do at Real Change.
Rest in power Scott.
— Tiffani McCoy
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Scott Morrow started the first Seattle self-managed encampment in 1990. The newspaper regrets the error.
Read more of the Apr. 27-May 3, 2022 issue.